My Wish List for Teachers
by Jen Hatmaker on May 6th, 2014
Here in Texas, it is Teacher Appreciation Week. Because we have no idea how to appropriately thank them for their incredible labor, we say, “Here is this mug and also a gift card to Chili’s. Be blessed.” Everything is inadequate. There isn’t a reward that makes viable sense for the men and women who serve not only as our kids’ educators but their counselors, relationship interventionists, coaches, cheerleaders, therapists, personal tutors, motivational speakers, and occasionally their benevolent wardens.
Teacher Job Description: Dress up like a chicken for weekend talent show.
Stipend: zero dollars.
Stipend: zero dollars.
I wish I could skip into your classrooms and make it rain cash money, travel vouchers, solid gold trophies, and confetti made out of the STAAR test you just endured. Since I can’t actually go all Oprah on you, I’ve made a Wish List of all the things you deserve:
Let’s talk salary. As I said to you last year: “I’ve calculated your earnings by adding your classroom hours, pre- and post-school hours, conferences and phone calls, weekend work, after-hours grading, professional development requirements, lesson planning, team meetings, extracurricular clubs and teams, parent correspondence, district level seminars, and material preparation, and I believe you make approximately 19 cents an hour.”
My wish for you includes basic figuring, reasonable standards, and some simple calculations. I’ve done the math, and teachers should make a minimum of $438,932 a year. This is basic economical science. My spreadsheets tell me that educating an entire generation is among the most important work on earth, and you should make more money than the shot girl at a bar. (She officially makes more than you, but please don’t leave our children to start dealing in jello shots. We will give you all the Chili’s gift cards you can handle.)
I wish for you a better way to evaluate your effectiveness in the classroom than these blasted standardized tests. Obviously, tests created by non-classroom people and legislators are going to nail appropriate benchmarks for the students they don’t teach (sarcasm font), but I can’t help but think you could improve these measuring sticks while in a coma underwater. I wish your pay grade and job security did not depend on a room of nervous children mastering a test that doesn’t necessarily indicate achievement, but rather, tends to be an accurate indicator of the income of the student's parents and his fortunate (or unfortunate) placement in the “norm,” because heaven help the ESL kids, those with special needs, the underresourced, the at-risk, the creatives, and the divergent learners.
I wish you were judged on your amazing creativity, and how that one day, after endless hours of personal attention, a lightbulb clicked over your student’s head and he got it and you gave up a whooping cheer. I wish newspapers skipped publishing your STAAR scores and rather covered that incredible week you engineered an entire city economy for your second graders complete with civic jobs, currency, stations, and budgeting activities. If only you were evaluated on what you do best and what actually matters: teaching kids to love learning, to love books and authors and words, to love numbers, to embrace science, to discover history, to create art, to think critically and practice good citizenship and leadership and resourcefulness and determination. Because THAT is your crowning achievement. We know this, Teachers. We parents understand you hate those multiple-choice scantrons too, but legislators need these measures for their campaigns and who else is going to fund the $1.7 billion testing industry? What are we supposed to do, divert that money to teachers’ salaries?? Now you’re just being silly.
We see you. We see the incredible work you do and most of us couldn’t care less about those test scores. We are standing over here with Chili’s gift cards doing the slow clap, applauding your innovation and dedication. You are amazing at the Real Stuff and we know it.
I wish for you fancy, all-expense trip paid vacations this summer, which you and I know is not “three months off” like the dumb-dumbs say, because by the time you complete all end of the year paperwork, grading, and classroom organization, attend all summer professional development requirements (often voluntary because you WIN THE UNIVERSE), then begin preparing for the start of a new year, your “three months off” looks more like 41 days. So I wish I could whisk you to France and the beach and the mountains and California and cruise ships and Spain where there are no students but lots and lots of bread products and cheese.
I wish you could be reimbursed even half of what you spend on your classroom. I don’t see the shot girl buying Tequila out of her own pocket, amiright?
Teachers, I wish more parents understood that their Precious Child probably isn’t an innocent victim of your unresolved daddy issues and rage disorder. She is in detention for an actual reason, Mom. Kaitlyn-Grace needs to do her homework and close her sassy mouth. Those tears are manufactured. Kaitlyn-Grace should join theater.
Elementary Teachers, I wish you the grace of Jesus and the patience of Job on rainy days. There is not enough Jenga on earth to substitute for outside recess. May God shine upon you. With actual sun. So these children may return after recess smelling like gym socks.
I wish all your committee meetings, grade-level planning sessions, and school-wide in-services could be boiled down to actual productive minutes, taking your yearly attendance from approximately 795 hours to more like 12. Bless. Good thing Facebook is right there on your phone. God speed.
I wish zero teachers had to instruct all day then go home and oversee their own kids’ homework. That is just asking too much. Let’s call a teacher managing her kid’s science fair project at 7:30pm what it is: a tragedy and impending meltdown. Stop it, universe. She’s done enough.
I wish you could hear all the good things our kids say about you at home. They are singing your song ‘round these parts. We know every funny story you’ve ever told, every interesting teaching approach, every good and loving thing you’ve ever said, and every memorable moment you’ve created. My children think you know everything and we know nothing. If it comes out of your mouth, it is the gospel truth. Please tell our kids to get a job this summer.
I wish you knew how much we love and appreciate you. You have an incredible legacy in the lives of our kids, and they will still be talking about you 30 years from now. When you cheer them on and go the extra 45 miles and pour your lives out for other people’s children, we cannot possibly thank you enough. You are literally helping to raise the entire next generation. What could be more important?
So we wave our Chili’s gift cards over here, proclaiming that TEACHERS ARE INVALUABLE AND WE OWE YOU A DEBT OF GRATITUDE WE CAN NEVER PAY. Thank you, Teachers. Thank you, thank you, thank you. A hundred cheers and all our love. You matter so much.
Please have a Quesadilla Explosion Salad with a side of Chicken Crispers on us.
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